The Fibber Affair by Mari Lynam Fitzpatrick

Mac's was an old style pub with thick walls and a thatched roof. The open fire that was set into a wide grate was kept lit from October to April, at night its smoulders were covered by ash that kept the spark alive until morning when it was rekindled.

The pub had been in the same family for a 100 years. At one time, it was fronted by a small shop where grandmothers on pension day bought a pound of ham for the tea before popping into the snug, at the back, for a bottle of stout. In those days the sexes were segregated: the women had the snug, the men the bar. Over the years the pub had become a part of the town's fabric with its own clientele, legends and stories. Stories that were told there were both lies and truth, and sometimes lies that were fabricated from truths became local legends.

Like when Bono visited town. Sure the boys said that he spent the Tuesday night jamming in the pub whereas he'd only stopped to buy a drink in the local shop while passing through. A few young ones recognized him and got his autograph. Johnny paid one of them 50 quid for it and put it behind the bar. That was enough to set the tone of the craic for the month and longer.

Anyway with the recession at its peak Johnny Mac was struggling to keep his doors open, so he decided to run a lying competition to find the best liar in the area. And he decided to run it in November, the month of 'All Souls,' when business was slow: The month some of his best clients abstained from alcohol. Johnny organized two local actors from the local dramatic society and two journalists from the county paper to adjudicate.

Now Johnny Mac believed in keeping things simple and he had three rules. They were:

1. Each participant had five minutes for their tale in the heats and 20 minutes max. in the final.

2.Each 'lie' had to have a beginning, a middle and an end or it got struck off.

3. Each judge had a bell, and if the three bells were used the participant stepped down

There was one winner.

The prize was a storytelling medal, and family tickets for four to a Christmas panto in Dublin with an overnight stay in a city-centre hotel.

Sure with the journalists input he got free publicity and on the first night when the doors opened there was a queue to get in. The pub was packed, and a winner was picked from the ten entries as there was from the following two weeks.

There were two local boys in the final and an outsider that no one knew. He'd been in the audience the second week and took a shot at it; he entered the competition, and told a story about a horse who took a man to town every Friday night for his drinking session just to wait outside until he was finished, and then he took him home putting him to bed in his stable and pulling his blanket over him. He had a way with him that raised a laugh and the judges were impressed enough by his off-the-cuff tale to put him through.

The last Friday in November arrived.

It was final night. If it was a good night, it would set the tone for a good Christmas take at the tills. The morning of the final Johnny was rubbing his hands together in anticipation of a good night's takings, a disaster of a month had been averted by his own creative input, and he was looking forward
to a good Christmas, and he was making plans for a holiday in the Canary Islands, or even Mexico, in the New Year, day-dreaming of surf and beer--and svelte bronzed women in itsy bitsy bikinis sunbathing on the beaches--when the local polis arrived.

Jimmy Fitzsimmons was the local copper. Small for a polis man, he just made the height regulations and he was fat. Food fat rather than drink fat, for Jimmy had no time for the beer. However, Jimmy was also a member of the local dramatic society and had been attending the Wednesday shows to support the judges. That morning, he was on duty when a fax came through from police headquarters to the local station: The FBI had alerted the Irish Police about a man that they wanted to speak to about a murder in New York and had sent through a photo. And Jimmy Fitzsimons was sure it was the stranger that was in the final of the liar competition.

He told Johnny about it.

'And what do you expect me to do, Jimmy, make a citizen's arrest! Is it that ya want! me making a fool of meself; why are ya telling me anyways?' Johnny asked.

'Just to let you know that you might have a few visitors for I have informed headquarters.' Jimmy answered as he leaned into the bar counter with a self important smirk and settled his cap on the back of his head.

Now Jimmy Fitz was well known for his investigations. No one took him seriously. He couldn't shoot, hunt, fish or ride, had no driving license and ya'd hear the Honda 50 that he rode around town coming at ya from a mile off.

The Country Women's Association solved more local crime than he did just by keeping their eyes open -- and boy, they had sharp eyes!

'I'll tell you what Jimmy,' Johnny said.' You bring in your FBI and your headquarter boys and whoever else ya like, but I'm I'm I'm telling ya now keep me out of it.'

'So. That's all you have to say,' Jimmy said. 'We could have a murderer in our midst and that's all you have to say, and you! a respected member of the community.'

'Well now, Jimmy, it's like this I just pull pints you pull criminals. Tell me again. How many was it that you caught last year? He insisted, but it was to Jimmy's back he was talking for he had left in a huff.


However after Jimmy left, Johnny had a rethink. Maybe he'd been hasty. So he phoned Mick Maguire one of his adjudicators, who worked for the press and he related the story.

Mick was delighted to get a heads-up and told him to leave it with him. Mick phoned around a few of his contacts and had the rumour confirmed, and he phoned Johnny back with the news.

'Jesus, Mick, what will we do at all?' he asked. 'We don't need that type of publicity. Can you believe that that eejit got it right this time out!'

'Have you an address for the man?' Mick replied with a question.

'Sure. Why would I,' Johnny said, 'I run a pub, that's all. If he shows he shows. However we don't need his ilk, but we don't need any kind of polis' shenanigans either, sure that will only result in bad publicity for us all. Can you get into me early?' he continued, 'and we'll see if we can sort this before our Honda-cop creates a scene.'

Mick arrived in Mac's at 7PM with a photographer in tow.

'What do we want him for?' Johnny asked, pointing at the camera.

'We want him because we'll be putting the medal winner on our front page. Will ya calm down man,' Mick replied, and he lifted the pint that Johnny poured for him off the table, and handed it to his boy with camera, saying: 'You don't mind staying out of the way, Brian, we'll keep your glass full,' and he nodded to a window seat which Brian promptly took.

Mick settled himself on the barstool, 'Anymore news from Fitzsimons?' he asked. 'Naw, he's not been back.'

'Well, how are you going to play this?' Mick asked.

'Well do you know if Fitzsimons is coming tonight?' Johnny enquired.

'I'm sure he is, but I'll give him a ring if ya like, I'll throw out a hint that I know something, and that's sure to get him in.'

'Well you get him here, and did you bring that boy's photo with you?' Mick handed it over.

'Right now. Yes. This photo looks like him. All right all right,' he said. 'Okay then, this is what we're going to do.' And Mick sat back, listened, nodded at the appropriate moments and smiled. Then getting up to leave, he called to Brian. 'Just keep that glass refilled, but for heaven's sake stay there and stay sober. Keep me a seat, and I'll be back soon.'

That night when the judges arrived they were all dressed as policemen.

The previous year the local variety show had staged 'The Laughing Policemen,' a skit based on the old 'Charles Jolly' song. Six of them had preformed it, and Johnny had phoned them earlier to ask the boys -his judges-- to put the old line-up together and stage it that night. The only stipulation was that they were to arrive in costume as he had no changing facilities, and he had also asked that they please mix with the punters just for the fun of it. The adjudicators were up for it and for the evening they added another few members of the drama group to their line-up.

So with a full house and the final set-to-start Johnny took the mike from his MC, thanked everyone for their business and said that, as the venture had been so successful he was putting a drink on the house, and they could pick up a ticket for it, from 'The Laughing Policemen' who would distribute them before they did their turn. Shure he got a standing ovation.

'Go Mac's, Go Johnny,' rang out from the audience. Johnny handed the mike back to his MC and the first finalist started. But the man must have been nervous for he fluffed his lines, and within five minute the three bells had rung.

The second boy up was the outsider, the stranger. This time he told a story of a jailbreak. He held his audience captive, his wit kept them enthralled. They oohed and ahhhhd and clapped when the convicts got clear away.

Johnny had watched for the murderer's reaction when he saw the boys dressed up as policemen but he gave nothing away. And to give him credit he could tell a story. But it was him okay: The murderer; though Johnny didn't know who he had murdered. Mick McGuire had given Johnny the heads-up earlier, he had phoned Fitzy, who had confirmed that it was the boy they were looking for. Mick said laughing that Fitzy had said: 'he wouldn't be there as a punter but they could expect visitors.'

The stranger sat down to great applause and then with last of the beer tickets dispensed 'The Laughing Policemen' got up to preform their song to even greater.

They coloured the background so well that no one really noticed when two real policemen came through the door and asked the stranger to go outside with them.
At that stage everyone was on their feet singing along to: hahahahahahaha hahahahaha hahahahahahaha hahahahaha

A few of them shouted 'well done' to the stranger as he was led out, his arms held securely by the real coppers. One woman called out: 'We reckon you'll win man.' That's what she said.

And there was Fitz holding the door open and waving at Johnny who was shaking his head at him attempting to dismiss his acknowledgement.

Sure the end result was a done deal then. Before the last man --Johnny's brother-in-law -- got up he'd won.

The following Monday the front of the weekly paper printed a photo of the police taking the man out of the pub, the write-up suggested that he was a dangerous murderer.

Jimmy Fitzsimons told Johnny afterwards that he'd been involved in a hit and run. But no one mentioned that. As shocking as it was, it was too tame for Mac's clientele. And with the Tuesday night sessions still going strong the rumour went out about the murderer who had entered the competition and told the story of his jail-break on stage. That cemented the 'liar' competition and it became an annual event.

Christmas was good to Johnny that year and he showed-off a great tan when he got back from the vacation. It must be 30 years ago now since this event occurred, and his daughter is now running the old bar.

Johnny's dead, he died in Spain, bought a bar out there when he retired and a couple of local ex pats took him out. They didn't want the competition. 'Twas a sad ending I suppose, but sure he was 79 when it happened, and the hoods in their 30's will never see the light of day again. They're secure behind bars in Alicante.

I wrote up this story for my kids, just to show them that there's always a way around disturbing situations, one can always find an easy way out with a bit of thought, a few friends and a good community. And then I'm heading down to Mac's I've entered this year's liar's competition, there's 2000 Euros now for the winner, times shure have changed and if I win I plan to take the family to London for a few days over the Christmas holidays.


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